Saturday, 28 November 2009

Taxi for Mr Dooley

Last nights are odd on tour. On single-venue shows there's generally a massive knees-up; I guess that last night party thing is to mark the fact that the show couldn't possibly have been properly explored in 4 weeks - that the surface has only just been scratched; and, of course, that the very intense friendships you have made are about to abruptly end. If you've been raised on a diet of that then you'll be disappointed with touring.

There's a blowing-out-of-cheeks and a wearisome bag-packing goes on; inappropriately hurried goodbyes, too, because family are always there. There's an awareness too that the next person who opens the prop boxes or costume bags won't be you, unless you're coming back, as I was at the end of the first tour of Ab's Party. I haven't been invited back this time - I imagine for good practical reasons.

However, I would love to play the role again with the chance to explore it properly in rehearsal. And I had no idea quite how much I rely on that for what I do on stage. Without it, it's almost impossible to recall onstage and automatically the intentions behind the actions, for example, because much had inevitably been decided privately by me, but not really fixed in rehearsal. So going on stage was always a precarious business.

Without the support of Michael, Alice, Carol, Ben and Alan, it would have been a disaster. That I wasn't slammed in the reviews is a pleasant surprise bearing in mind the circumstances - and I have a brand new epithet to add to my suitcase of mild critical approbation: "...sensitively played...". Lovely.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

You Know My Name

We get to our Travelodge tonight to discover that no rooms have been booked for us. Well, Carol Dance and Ben Sherratt are welcome to stay, but there are no reservations for Alan, Alice and me. It's turning into another Abigail's Party Buxton Incident (when we were all booked in for the day after the show...) when suddenly the receptionist mentions there is a room booked for a Mr R Dooley. We can't believe it - there's a bloke called Dooley in the hotel - what are the chances?

"Mr P Dooley and Ms M Folan are booked in too" she continues.
"What? Please tell me they're not in a double"
"No. Separate rooms"

What's happened at LCT HQ? Has Pauline finally cracked under the pressure of administrating the company and making sure Michael has clean underwear? Has she turned into one of those crazed women in Northern towns who can't separate soaps from reality, and who pelt Steve McFadden with chips in the street? There's no answer from the nerve centre yet...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Eleven Drunken Nights

There are two kinds of tours, really. The ones where you drink a couple of nights a weeks to oil the wheels of sociability - businesslike and, to be honest, a bit dull. And the other kind, where you behave as though you were on holiday all the time, as though the money is just to be spent on the here and now, and as though there are no such things as matinees. This is one of the latter kind.
Guinness is an elusive beast, but since I'm not risking wine any more in pubs, it's tonight's choice. Alan tests each pint for quality, and winces slightly each time. By midnight we're three unhappy pints down each and heading home with Ben.

And then we spot Crosby's.

It's like a Bosch painting, where there's something gruesome going on in the background wherever you look. There's a group of schoolgirls wobbling around by the decks - no, make that a bunch of women in St. Trinian's outfits. There are even smaller dresses in this bar than Alice wears in Scene 3. Ben is fixated on the girl serving us already, and zones out whenever she approaches to give her a dreamy smile which says "I'm ready to drop these losers whenever you're ready, lady. Just say the word".
By the sixth pint I could be drinking bleach but I wouldn't care. I can't remember the last time I was up this late unless I was putting Jake's duvet back on him. I haven't the faintest idea what Alan and I were talking about, but at one point we laughed so hard and I farted so sonorously that the DJ heard.

Carpe diem, for tomorrow we die. And I'm sure the matinee will be fine.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Top of the Evenin'...

The unthinkable has happened. I just got an exit round after my monologue. I am finally Irish. Well, Irish-ish.

More Birthday Suits

I forgot to mention that when I was in Edinburgh years ago, I saw "The Elephant Man" where an actress in Victorian dress had to strip off completely. As the final vestiges of modesty were cast aside and John Merrick gazed upon the first and last naked woman he ever saw, the silence was only broken by someone saying "Yum, yum!"

Bums on Seats, Tonks on Stage

Coventry has two famous references in any dictionary of phrases. To be "sent to Coventry" - the origin of which is not certain; and the tale about Lady Godiva riding through the streets of the town as a bargain to secure the building of a Bendictine monastery from her husband Leofric. Now that's what I call a dare.
Riding around the streets in the buff is one thing - at least she had her long hair to cover her - but doing it in the theatre is something quite else. I've seen a lot of boobs and bollocks on stage over the years, and I've never been entirely comfortable about it. I wonder if anyone is.
There was a show at the Bush Theatre in the 90's called "Killer Joe", I think, set in a trailer park in some godforsaken Midwest town or other. Great show, but the most extraordinary thing about it was that in Act 2, very unexpectedly, the actor playing Joe came on stage in possession of a handgun but no clothes. And he was very impressively endowed. And I speak with a degree of authority because in the front row in the Bush, you're very close indeed to the action.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

For The Record!

The cracks have begun to appear - the illusion is collapsing. I was sitting in the rocking chair yesterday whilst Michael and Ben "I need some help with my Latin vocab" Sherratt did the lights, when I noticed that the 'phone has been RECYCLED from the Abigail's Party set. What a swizz! It's one of those phones that I grew up with, from the days when they were permanently attached to the wall, so not a million years ago.
I directed a show set in the 30's a few years ago, and a phone was central to the plot. It took me a little while to understand why all the 20-something actors were going to the phone and miming stabbing their palms with their index fingers. They'd never SEEN a dial phone. Or a record player. I had to bring an album in so they could see it, too, and they gathered around and cooed like it was a museum piece. It was very rewarding until someone said "But who were Sigue Sigue Sputnik?"
Words just sort of failed me.

The Coventry Evening News...

What IS it with landladies who come into your room when you're not there and do stuff? I got back last night to find that my bed had been straightened, my pyjamas folded and put under my pillow and my bedtime reading had been arranged more pleasingly on my nightstand. Thank God it was only a copy of Private Eye. It's like staying with grandma, only without being told what a lovely shaped head I have.
We're in Coventry now, at the fabulous Belgrade Theatre and we had a storming opening yesterday. The laughs were all in the right place, including some I never knew existed, and I feel like my Pato is finally a proper member of the Leenane community rather than a visitor from Porlock or whatever.
I was here with Michael and Alice back in 2008 with "Ab's Party", the first time LCT visited, and I remember the stakes being very high. Last night felt like more of a consolidation of the work done last time - as long as the play is right, LCT should have a guaranteed place in their programming. Which is A Thing Devoutly To Be Treasured.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Seven Drunken Nights

I did a show once where the accent required was standard American, and yet one cast member arrived on day one with a broad Southern Belle accent which remained undimmed from the first rehearsal until the last performance. This was on the fringe, where you're sometimes quite lucky if people can speak at all, but you get the point. It was just awful.
So I'm throwing myself wholeheartedly into mastering the Galway brogue. Except there doesn't seem to be one. Every video on YouTube with a Galway tag seems to have a bloke in it saying "Sure, no such thing as a Galway accent is there, now" or a scene from Riverdance.

So I approach the Zen master of the Galway accent, Alan DeVally, who plays Ray (Pato's brother) and actually hails 20 miles from Leenane itself.

"All your vowel sounds are right there, they are..." he breathes, in a melting tone. I'm listening so hard to his accent I find it hard to hear the words, "...and I suppose Pato would be likely to have met a good number of Dubliners over in London on the sites".

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

On Book

In Hamburg we had someone on the book for a week, and although we made an audience announcement every night they still reacted as thought someone had farted audibly in a pause when the "on-book" actor entered.
Last night, Thursday, was our first without an announcement. Theoretically this put me on a level field with everyone else, which is a good thing but still, it's a significant step and the stakes seemed higher as a result. Like it's been rehearsal up to then.
Act 1 goes off without a hitch, but when I sit down with the letter there's an audible mutter, a faint chunter of disbelief that one of the actors clearly doesn't know all his lines well enough. Not at all pleasant.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

I run into Kevin Shaw, the Coliseum's artistic director today. He's wonderful about the first night's show, and mentions that it must be like the old actor's nightmare of being thrown into a show where you've hardly read the script.
I wish I could say it wasn't. I felt as though I was an automaton, merely reproducing the rehearsed blocking and barely able to invest the lines with anything but the most basic colour. The best bit was the letter, which I read wholesale.
He doesn't mention the huge dry in Scene 4. He doesn't have to. You can still see the tyre marks on the stage where the truck drove through it.